Indians in American Politics
Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.
By Natasha Christian
With a population of more than 2.8 million Indians living in the U.S., the rise of Indian politicians in American government is long overdue.
Joining the club with high profile politicians like Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and Texas’ own Rick Perry, are Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and several other South Asians who have taken their place in American politics.
Currently 15 Indians are involved in different areas of government. While the majority represents the Republican Party, a few have chosen to be part of the Democratic Party.
Mayors, senators, representatives and governors are slowly but surely allowing themselves to be voices for Indian-American everywhere.
The very first Indian to make it to Washington, D.C., was Dalip Singh Saund in Jan. 1957. The Indian-born American emigrate, served in the U.S. House of Representatives for California District 29. Nearly 50 years later, Piyush “Bobby” Jindal came onto the political scene.
Jindal is the first Indian-American governor. He was born in Louisiana a few months after his parents flew over from India. A major conflict of interest for some Indians is his conversion from his parent’s Hinduism faith to the U.S.’s dominant religion, Christianity.
Older Indians who have emigrated from southern Asia disapprove of Jindal’s transition and believe he cannot truly represent the entire Indian population.
However, they do not realize that Hinduism is not the only religion. Muslims, Christians and even Jewish Indians live in the land of the free.
Barely five weeks ago, Jindal kept his reign as current governor. He won the re-election with an impressive 60 percent of votes. Strongly due to his efforts after the disastrous BP oil spill of April 2010, Jindal proved to natives of Louisiana that he knew what it took to be governor of their state.
Jindal is not the only one to stray from India’s basic roots. American born Namrita “Nikki” Haley is an Indian politician who abandoned the traditional religion.
She is currently the youngest serving governor and the first female non-white governor of South Carolina.
With an Indian culture aimed at male bravado, Haley has proved in both American and Indian cultures that she can compete with the men in a male-dominated field.
During her first campaign, Haley was endorsed by current presidential nominee Mitt Romney and 2008 vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. In addition, she is gradually becoming part of the Tea Party movement.
She can quickly lose interest of the younger Indian crowd because of her partnership with Sarah Palin and growing involvement with the right-wing Tea Party.
Other notable Indian-Americans include, Iowa State Senator Swati Dandekar. Kumar Barve, Aruna Miller and Sam Arora are all in the U.S. House of Representatives from Maryland. Harvinder Anand is the mayor of Laurel Hollow, N.Y.
From the first generation on down to the second and third generations, Indians have much more to offer to this country. Currently making their mark in the fields of technology and medicine, can Indians bring a new voice into a new arena?
Because Indians are the second fastest growing community in America, it is now time for them to take a stand in American government and lend a hand to brothers and sisters from different cultures living right here in the land of opportunity.